Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or ‘Seasonal Depression’, anyone who has ever suffered from the Winter Blues knows that it can be debilitating. While the underlying cause is still up for some debate, theories mainly focus around a lack of sunlight during Winter months preventing the hypothalamus from working at full efficiency. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to beat the Winter Blues without professional assistance or medication, and some of the most effective ways are simple changes in lifestyle. The NHS website recommends “getting as much natural sunlight as possible, exercising regularly, and managing your stress levels” and there are accessible ways of doing all three.
Getting as much natural sunlight as possible can be challenging due to most people’s working hours and the fact that there are fewer hours of daylight. Fortunately, advances in light therapy have provided numerous solutions to this problem; such as Dawn Simulators and medically proven SAD Lights. Moving on, managing stress levels is essential to managing seasonal depression, however, this comes easier to some than it does to others. For those who struggle, guided meditation is often recommended to help combat seasonal depression and there are countless audio sessions available to download from the internet.
Lastly, regular exercise. The benefits of exercise are obvious and well documented, so we really don’t need to go into it. What we do want to cover, however, is the importance of outdoor exercise in particular when it comes to combatting Seasonal Affective Disorder. Engaging in outdoor activities targets at least one but usually two or even three of the points mentioned above. It will always involve exercise of some intensity, but it can also expose you to natural light and, for us at least, there are few things more relaxing than getting out and enjoying nature.
6 Outdoor Activities To Beat The Winter Blues
We’ve put together a shortlist of outdoor activities that look to achieve as many of these criteria as possible in order to fight against SAD and its resulting issues. With any activity in the winter months its especially important to be well prepared so ensure you have checked the weather forecast, have a set of dry clothes, a phone, head-torch and snack with you and that if out by yourself someone knows where you are going and what time to expect you back. It's best to be safe than sorry! Our 100% waterproof pouch is great for keeping those essential items safe and dry during any activity.
Winter sailing always seems to be met with a degree of apprehension and it isn’t entirely misplaced. There are certain considerations to take into account when sailing during the winter but none of them takes away from the joy of heading out on your boat. Preparing for the trip with some warm clothing and warmer drinks you can enjoy all the benefits of regular sailing but with the added bonus of having the water to yourself due to fewer boats out at this time of year.
You know our background and what we're about, there's no shying away from it that paddle boarding ticks the boxes when it comes to avoiding those winter blues. With so many waterways to explore from lakes, coastline and rivers, paddle boarding is rapidly becoming a year round activity. With the advances in performance clothing, and PFDs to keep you safe whilst out on the water. Paddle boarding, if you haven't given it a go could well be your answer to avoiding the dark dank winter blues.
At any time of year, taking your bike out onto some forest trails and seeing how far you can push yourself is fun. Staying active and getting away from screens is one of the best ways to combat seasonal depression, making cycling one of the best options out there. With an abundance of trails available and noticeably reduced traffic on them, you can really get out and explore at your own pace while helping fill up some of that free time and shaking off the lethargy that autumn and winter can bring. Cycling in through the cold wind and rain may not be the most attractive prospect, but it's absolutely worth some of the amazing views and vistas you'll come across. What's more, there are loads of cycling clothes and accessories available that make cycling in even the most miserable conditions considerably more tolerable.
For most people, the thought of diving into cold water is immediately followed by a cringe and a shudder, however, cold-water swimming is said to have many benefits. For instance, research suggests that regularly swimming in cold water can help to regulate and even boost the body’s antioxidant levels. Initially submerging yourself in cold-water does require a certain level of willpower and fortitude, but that's all part of the fun! What's more, time spent swimming outdoors has been shown to reduce stress as well as lower the risk of developing depression and mental illness. One thing we would recommend, however, is that you have a warm change robe or towelling robe that you can quickly throw on to help warm yourself up once you're done.
Being active isn’t always the most practical way to combat seasonal depression and sometimes you just need to get outside and get some fresh air after an exhausting day at work. Astrophotography can be the perfect way to spend a few hours outside without exerting yourself and you get some fantastic photos as a reward. There are million-and-one things to learn when it comes to this hobby but just getting out there and starting is the best way to approach it. Fortunately, winter is the best time to practice as the longer nights with it growing dark earlier give you enough time to get somewhere appropriate, get set up, take some photos, and still head home for a nice warming drink and relax before you head to bed.
When it comes to getting natural sunlight when the sun is sitting low on the horizon there’s nothing that compares to hiking. A measured pace up a slight incline to reach the top of a hill will give you a boost of serotonin as well as putting you in a position to make the most of the sunlight that can be found during winter. It can also be a communal activity, done with a small group of friends it can be exactly what you need to counter a low mood. A light exercise with companionship and a clear goal in sight can be an amazing mood boost in a number of ways. If you're thinking about giving hiking a go, Red Original offers a range of hiking clothes and accessories to help keep you safe and comfortable.